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Public Enemies August 14, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If you compare it with any previous gangster flick (the good ones of course), Public Enemies seems rather redundant. It follows every rule in the book including being “based on a true story”. Yet at the end of the film you hardly get to know the protagonist or any of the other numerous characters in this enterprise. Still watching Public Enemies was such a visceral experience that you can’t help but admire it.

It’s a rather bold gamble to visualize the film the way it is but the payoff is superb. Really hard to imagine a film like this to have been shot with a handheld HD camera. I wasn’t aware of this before so it took some time for me to adjust – the opening sequence with those incisive close-ups and jerky movements sets the tone for the rest of the film. The biggest impact of this is evident is those brilliant shootout sequences which get better and better. Michael Mann is a master of such scenes and this is an area he never disappoints. The actual film moves at a rather leisurely pace but never really gets boring.

The talented cast is another reason why this film works. Right from the time the film was conceived, the makers made sure that this wasn’t projected as a face-off between John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) – otherwise it would have been a case of Christian Bale being overshadowed by the other guy in yet another multistarrer. Johnny Depp is great as always however like I said before his character isn’t well etched enough so you never really like or hate Dillinger. Marion Cotillard is nice but then it’s such a cliched character you’d have come across so many times before. Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover doesn’t have that big a role, yet I felt he was actually the one who made the biggest impact.

I never really liked Michael Mann’s previous two features but this one was quite exhilarating. Public Enemies is a visually innovative and violent gangster movie where style overpowers substance¬† – and that’s what makes it a memorable experience.

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Terminator Salvation May 30, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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The wait has been long but the payoff isn’t exactly what I hoped for.

Unlike the previous films where John Connor is being chased by robots, this time he is doing the chasing. His mission is to save Kyle Reese (his would be or had been dad) while also trying to destroy Skynet. Somewhere in all this, a new character called Marcus Wright also plays an important role.

Despite all the similarities in structure (almost felt like a remake of its predecessor) and flaws, I still enjoyed Terminator 3 because it still played like a Terminator film. The tension, the excitement, characters that you wanted to care for and a little bit of humor – the elements were all there.

But Terminator Salvation is a different film (written by T3 scribes John Brancato and Michael Ferris). It moves away from the formula and tries to tell a different story, though the goal is to still save a human being from the machines. While the tale is fine, the film does not engage us on an emotional level. You don’t really feel connected to the characters or root for them. You sit there and wait to figure out what its all about and thats it.

The visual effects are quite remarkable and that is the real USP of this film but the action, though exciting, isn’t comparable to previous films because you don’t really care much for the protagonists and therefore, there is no real tension.

Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) is fine but doesn’t impress. Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) is the only actor in the film who seems human enough to relate to (as is the little girl). Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) and Bryce Dallace Howard (The Village) are wasted. Sam Worthington gets the biggest and most interesting part in the film.

Director McG (Charlie’s Angels) succeeds in creating some great visuals but this film lacks soul. If you love the series for the action and visual effects, you might like this a bit. But if you were expecting more from this one, you will be disappointed.

The Dark Knight July 19, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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The most awaited movie this summer finally arrives in theatres. Film geeks have been churning out post after post on the blogosphere awaiting its arrival and the phenomenon isn’t going to stop post-release. Almost every critic worth his salt has raved about it. If you thought Batman Begins was super, wait till you watch The Dark Knight. It meets all the expectations and then some.

A question that everyone is asking themselves is whether this is the best superhero movie ever. Before you go there, you might want to ask yourself if it is a superhero movie. Batman was always one of the most identifiable superheroes because he didn’t have real superpowers. In his two Batman films, director Christopher Nolan (who has dabbled in noir more often than not) has employed a dark tone and a lot of logic to make Batman feel very real. He continues that in this film, making it feel like a crime thriller more than a superhero movie. If we still were consider it a comic book superhero film, I’d say it tops my list (and that of so many more).

The film is centred around three major characters. Harvey Dent, the white knight of Gotham, who provides people with the hope that he can change things for the better. Batman, the dark knight of Gotham, whose work seems to have worsened the crime in the city. And finally the Joker, a psychopathic killer who terrorizes the city with his own crazy, unpredictable but believable motives for doing so. Will the white knight take Gotham forward? Will the Joker ruin Batman and Gotham? Can the Batman still stay incorruptible?

The screenwriters (Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, who’ve worked together on Memento and The Prestige) devise this film to take forward the story of Batman and Gotham. The film isn’t about superheroes. It is about criminals and crime fighters and how they affect each other. It is about the emotions, the motives, the psyche. It is about rules. It is about those who live by them and about those who follow none. The remarkable screenplay is driven around these ideas and not around the villains or their dumb ideas for world domination or the action sequences. Newer situations and conflicts are created, ensuring that the movie doesn’t feel repetitive (and that is always a problem for sequels). Everyone has a good reason for their actions. Everything is as realistic and logical as it has ever gotten in a comic book film. Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Following, Insomnia) created a successful reboot for a dead franchise and he takes it a step further this time. His contribution to the film – the detail, the tone, the vision, the execution – is superlative.

I loved the designs of the vehicles, weapons and the sets the first time (production design by Nathan Crowley). They are even better here. Wait till you see the Batpod in action. I was totally blown away by its introduction in the film. The action sequences are also much better this time around. The Joker’s makeup is very natural and the extended lips create a great effect. But the best part is the visualization of Two Face. It could scare the shit out of many.

Christian Bale continues his wonderful work (I especially like what he does with his voice for Batman) in the role that opened many doors for him. The late Heath Ledger brings the Joker to life in a delightful performance. Aaron Eckhart is well cast as Harvey Dent and he very much feels like someone whom people can instantly like and put faith in.¬† Maggie Gyllenhaal is a suitable (many will say better) replacement (for Katie Holmes) for the part of Rachel Dawes, who is caught between the two knights (no, it isn’t a perfunctory love triangle). Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox play their supporting parts to perfection while Gary Oldman as James Gordon is just as convincing and even more integral.

Now, after all the praise the question still remains. Should you watch it? The answer isn’t a resounding yes. If you’ve liked Batman Begins and have caught a whiff of the hype, you’re probably going to see this (if you haven’t already) irrespective of my opinion. But there are others who didn’t like that film much. Some found it too dark. Some found that the action or entertainment wasn’t enough. Others found it complex. Maybe they expected a popcorn movie and ended up with something else. If you are one of those, I wouldn’t particularly push you to watch this.

P.S. As I eagerly await Nolan’s sequel to this film, I prepare myself to understand that it will be hard to top this. So, anything that is at least close to matching the original is good enough for me.